There we were, ten or so ten year old boys and myself – in the middle of the oval, in a circle – conducting the pre-training stretching routine as I do. As I have done for over thirty years. Obviously it has evolved somewhat, and this version is adapted to the age group and time frame of the training session.
An older sibling, a boy of twelve years of age, often participates in part of the training with us. He was sitting with us in the circle, but not participating.
My attention was atypically drawn from my own stretching to the status of this boy. I said:
“What are you doing? Why are you not joining in?”
A lot nicer than I would have been with a regular player in any team I work with, and especially an adult athlete.
Genuinely perplexed, I asked:
“What you do you mean ‘you can’t’?”
“I can’t. I’m not allowed to.”
Wishing to understand him more fully, I continued my questions:
“What do you mean you are not allowed?”
What he was about to say floored me. Luckily I was on the ground anyway!
“I’m can’t stretch before a game. My physiotherapist said so.”
Knowing how inflexible this athlete was, and how much I felt he need to stretch, I continued:
“Why have you been told that?”
To which he said:
“I don’t’ know. They said it was bad for me, and so I can’t do it.”
I did my best to encourage the boy to give stretching a go, but I could see his heart was not in it.
I shook my head and went back to focusing on my team’s needs.
After all, the boy had already had surgery on one knee….